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Life Beyond the Farm & Having it All

12 Dec

I have found it a very common theme that farmers or those involved in agriculture have a reach that goes much beyond their own acres of land.  Maybe it’s because we are traditionally from smaller communities that have been built with volunteers, or maybe it’s because we have needed help at some point too and have always had a network to reach out to just over the fence row.  Or maybe it’s because we are bored…oh wait…nope…scratch that…it’s definitely not the reason. I have yet to meet a bored farmer!

I don’t often talk about my life outside of farming and family on here.  And probably a lot of it has to do with the fact that I never think of it as interesting or worth blogging about, because it’s just what I have always done and what has always been the norm for my life.  I grew up in a family that volunteered and gave their time where it was needed, and it’s something that runs as deep in my blood as the soil that I farm.  I, like many other farmers, volunteer as a firefighter and EMT in our community.  I also sit on many boards, mostly agriculturally involved.  I give a lot of time to these efforts of making things better for my fellow farmers, making things safer for my neighbors and overall helping where needed in the community.

This is a photo from the Woodburn High School Fire back in 2012, when I was still “Kirsch”

So all that being said, as many of you know I am expecting our third little baby this coming spring.  I actually headed up to the fire department just last night to have department photos taken and looked like this in my uniform shirt.  Which was hilarious but also made me a little sad.

A few months back I had to make a number of phone calls that I truly didn’t want to make, conversations about me stepping down, stepping back, and in some cases leaving all together.  Off boards with friends who have become family, folks who I have sat next to over years, in some cases over 10 years, at the local fire station, farm bureau board room or even coffee shop.  These meetings were more than just meetings, it’s where I learned some of the most valuable lessons of not only about how to be a good fireman, EMT or farmer; but a friend, a good colleague, and a solid person.

At a Marion County Farm Bureau Meeting, showing that “I Farm I Vote”

So last night when I tried (and really I did try) to button up that uniform shirt for what might be the last time in a long time, it was very bittersweet.  It was a blatant sign that I had made a choice, it was a sign that having it all doesn’t always mean you have it “all” and that decisions no matter how tough, have to be made.  I know I have made the right choice in moving back from my involvement, but it doesn’t make it any easier to say “see you later” to the folks who have made life here in this small town, and within the farming industry, so amazing.  I have no doubt that I’ll be back, remember it’s in my blood…and for now farming and having three kids under 4 (which yes I realize is still a lot) will take my time and focus.

I often have people ask me how I do it “all” and I often don’t really know what to say.  But I think now I’ll say that having it “all” doesn’t mean that you get to have everything you want right now.  It means to me that I have to be realistic and make choices that make what I can handle in the “now” all the more worth it.  Moving forward with life is not a choice, time will keep passing, but it does mean we get to make choices in the direction we head.  So for now, I’m heading back to the boys who are calling “mommy” (all the time!) and back to the fields to look for slugs.  For now that’s where my “all” is, and for now that’s all I need.

Wheat Field Fire

30 Aug

We did have some small amount of excitement this year while harvesting wheat.  It was the perfect storm in many ways, mostly in good ways thankfully!

It was on one of those really super hot days we have been having here at the tail end of summer.  Probably in the high 90’s and we were two rounds into a field of standing wheat. Hoot had just climbed in the cab with Matt and I to make a few rounds (to make sure we are doing it right of course!) and as we turn the corner in the combine he starts to yell and point, “Burning Mommy!”  And sure enough I looked to where he was pointing and saw flames 15 feet in the air….chaos quickly ensued.  “Fire!” over the radio, meanwhile one of our guys saw the flames and was running to his rig to get extinguishers.  Equipment driving out of the field as fast as possible, a call to 911…it was all very crazy!

Here are the things that went wrong…our best guess is that the sickle bar hit a rock and caused a spark, which caused the field to start on fire very quickly.  The wheat is incredibly dry when we are harvesting so it doesn’t take much for fire to start and spread very rapidly.final

But here’s what went right.  Firefighter Hoot was on scene and spotted the blaze quickly!  We had everyone there!  Both truck drivers, my dad, Matt and myself were all miraculously in the field at that moment.  90% of the time it’s just the combine driver and maybe a truck driver, not much for manpower.   The wind was blowing away from the standing wheat so it spread the fire as far as the headland and then stopped.  We had plenty of fire extinguishers and the guys moved fast to wet the standing wheat and put out small spot fires.  It was a great job done by everyone!final-2

We were lucky that day, this whole thing could have been a very different story if the wind had shifted, if it had happened just 30 minutes before…really the what-ifs are endless.  I have never harvested looking back in my mirrors so much in my life!  It was also a little nerve wracking harvesting next to the burned area on the next round, I am pretty sure I was holding my breath!  final-1I can honestly say this year I was glad to put the combine away on the hottest days that were yet to hit a few weeks ago.  Here’s to hoping that never happens again, and if it does, we get all the things that “went right” again!

The St. Paul Rodeo

27 Jun

Well it’s that time of year again.  People from all over, put on their dusty (or brand new) boots and head out to St. Paul, Oregon for a show that they will never forget.  The St. Paul Rodeo is celebrating 81 strong years.  img_1486In a town of only 322 it’s incredible that we can find the room to welcome over 60,000 folks on this weekend every year.  But it’s a family tradition that lasts generations for many, it’s a way of life for others, but for many of us it’s a weekend of reuniting with old friends, cheering on those brave enough for an 8 second ride, and celebrating our freedom and all that comes with the good ‘ol 4th of July.

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It’s flags flying and the pride you feel as Mary Ann Zielinski belts out the National Anthem more beautifully than you have ever heard.

It’s cold beer on a warm night.  It’s dusty and dirty, with BBQ sauce and elephant ears.  It’s carnival rides and parish chicken dinners.  It’s freedom and fun, maybe in the end it’s just a small taste of all that I love about America.

It’s also a testament to the hard work that this community is no stranger to.  From the ticket takers and beer pourers, to the firemen and EMTs, it’s all one big volunteer effort to keep everyone well fed, well hydrated, safe and having a great time!100_27971

Happy 4th of July everyone! Come on our and see us June 30th-July 4th!  You won’t regret it!

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